How Long Does it Take to Break “Good” Habits?

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Experts tell us that it takes more than 2 months before a new habit becomes automatic.

Sixty-six days is the length of time most experts say that it takes for an old “bad” habit to be replaced by a new “good/better” one.

But, how long does it take for a good habit to be replaced by a “not-so-good” pattern of behavior?

Say a person is in the habit of exercising daily. If they aren’t able to exercise for some reason for a few weeks, (perhaps for those same 66 days) does the good habit break?

I couldn’t find any research on this, but if we use common sense we may conclude that if people stop “practicing” good habits, they will fall by the wayside. Then, in the future, if a person decides they want to start exercising the good habit again, it will most likely need to be reformed. It might not take as long as it did, initially, to form it, or it just may–  because more than likely, a “bad” habit has taken the “good” habit’s place…

So, here is my plug for writing every day:

Writing is a skill that requires practice.

Habits are formed by repetitive practice.

When practice is abandoned, habits break.

When one doesn’t write daily, the writing habit is broken.

When the writing habit is broken, skills just aren’t what they used to be.

And, those writers will find themselves in dire need of skill development in order to write as well as they did before—when they were writing on a daily basis.

It requires effort to form good habits.

And, those good habits can easily be broken by lack of consistent effort.

It’s as simple as that.

 

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I’ve Changed My Mind

 

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After a meeting, yesterday, the topic of how often one should write (every day? how many hours per day?) came up.

I listened as inexperienced writers eagerly listened to more seasoned authors on the topic that is as dear—and as often-debated—as toilet training is to young parents.

In one of my previous posts, I said that if you are researching for your book or article, or attending a conference, or viewing a webinar, that “counts” as your writing for the day.

Well, like I told the others after the meeting, I now know a bit more about the craft of writing and have changed my mind about what I advised a year ago.

There is no substitute for WRITING.

Here’s why:

You cannot learn to dance by reading a book or studying diagrams of nimble feet doing the Cha Cha.

You cannot learn to fish without baiting your hook and casting the line into the water.

There is no substitute for actually DOING.

We need to practice writing. All the reading and conference going—although worthwhile—cannot take the place of good, old-fashioned application.

Some people find themselves in such an endless cycle of “learning how to write” that they never actually sit down in front of the computer and try their hand at it.

They think that if they will just read one more book or watch one more webinar, then they will be ready…qualified…fully prepared.

All of that is well and good, but as my neighbor’s son studies his driving manual, I am reminded that he must also get behind the wheel and gain the experience of actually driving.

As a child, I heard my mother say, “Wishing doesn’t make it so,” many times. (Mostly this was in reference to having a clean room.) But, apply it to writing an article or book and you can make the connection, can’t you?

So, my conclusion is this: you must learn the skill of writing by writing, writing, and writing some more.

Every day?

Yes.

An hour a day?

At least.

Grab a partner and dance.

Bait your hook and cast your line.

Back out of the garage and get out on the highway.

Turn on the computer and let your fingers fly across the keyboard!

Do You Have What It Takes?

I am looking forward to watching the summer Olympics. Just days away, I am already planning my evenings to free up a few hours to view the games.

The dedication, the hours of practice, the self-denial of other pleasurable activities—these are just the beginning of what it takes to be an Olympian.

These young athletes didn’t just wake up one day with all the skills necessary to perform at these high levels.

They didn’t read a magazine article, get inspired, and experience instant success.

Their roads have a common thread of self-denial, determination, and hard work…really hard work…for hours, months, years…

Anyone who has achieved a high level of success at anything will tell you it isn’t an easy road.

It isn’t all glamorous.

It often isn’t even fun.

Sounds hard?

Ah, but you said you want to be a writer!

The same rules apply. In fact, we can think of successful writers in much the same way as we do Olympic athletes.

Do you have what it takes?

Drive.

Determination.

Perseverance.                             9001587131_7cd4b8ed82

A thirst for knowledge.

A willing, teachable spirit.

An unstoppable desire to achieve.

Because it will take all that from each of us and more…

Do you possess that innate quality that keeps you going in spite of reading a negative review, hearing a hurtful comment, receiving a rejection letter— and dust yourself off and get back in front of the computer and keep on creating?

As the Olympics unfold, the sports commentators will doubtless refer to the resilience of the human spirit.

No doubt history will be made by those who were told it couldn’t be done.

We will watch as races are won and records are broken.

The events may serve as the basis of a magazine article or the theme for a book.

Writers are sure to be inspired. Energized. Challenged.

Who knows?

You may find your gold medal in a future book deal, a letter to the Editor, or as a guest blogger.

Whatever it is

Whenever you experience it

Be assured

You have the makings of a Champion.